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  • Writer's picturePeter

Missing Your Favorite Indoor Activities? Try These 7 Parks Substitutes!

Summer has arrived, and you know what that means! Time to take a break from the heat and head out to all those amazing indoor kids spots in the Triangl---

Oh wait... due to COVID-19, those are all closed. We are absolutely committed to doing what we need to do to protect our community and slow the spread of COVID-19, but we think we speak for many when we say that doing our civic duty on that front doesn't make life any easier or erase the range of emotions - frustrated, sad, exhausted - that we have been feeling.

Obviously we love to get out to parks around here, but we are also seriously missing some of the great indoor fun and educational opportunities that we were regulars at before the pandemic hit. In thinking about the places we miss most the other day, it occurred to us that there are a number of outdoor parks and activities that, while not exactly the same, may scratch the itch for the places we're longing to be at this summer. Here is a list of 7 parks to switch out with some of the local indoor favorites:

1. If you're missing the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences, try checking out the Clemmons Educational State Forest.

While there sadly aren't any dinosaurs at the Clemmons Educational State Forest, there are two trails at this park that offer talking trees and rocks. Yup, you read that right. Throughout these easily navigated trails, there are boxes with buttons to push that tell you all about the trees and rocks nearby. The educational forest has a lot more to offer, but this is probably out favorite feature and is the reason we'll be going back again and again.

There are multiple educational forests throughout the state, and Clemmons in Clayton, NC is just one of them. Another one can be found at Jordan Lake. While not a state educational forest, we also recommend the Shepherd Nature Trail in Duke Forest, which is approximately a 1 mile loop with many educational opportunities like Clemmons.

2. If you're missing the North Carolina Museum of History, try checking out West Point on the Eno.

During the Civil War, West Point on the Eno was the point of a truce line between the Union and Confederate forces, and today is home to a number of historic buildings, and not to mention some beautiful nature trails, too. Free tours of this historic area have just resumed, and more information about those can be found on the Durham Parks and Recreation website. Check out the Calendar of Events and you'll see "West Point Park Tour" listed there.

There really is no shortage of history here in the Triangle. If you've been to West Point on the Eno already, you can also check out Bennett Place, Duke Homestead, and Mordecai House.

3. If you're missing an arcade or go-cart track, try checking out Historic Occoneechee Speedway.

In 1949, NASCAR had its inaugural season and one of the 2 tracks they had was Occoneechee Speedway located in Hillsborough, NC, about a 30-minute ride from the Triangle. The track has not been used officially since 1968 and is now a set of amazing nature trails. Along these trails, you can see historic buildings, a flag stand, and old cars; sit in the stands; and walk where the cars used to race on the mile-long speedway loop.

4. If you're missing the Museum of Life and Science, try checking out Historic Oak View.

One of our favorite parts of the Museum of Life and Science is seeing the wild animals. A good alternative to this is Wake County's Historic Oak View Park in Raleigh, where they have goats and chickens that you can get up close to, as well as a pond where you can fish. The park also features a huge pecan orchard, historic farm buildings and equipment, and beautiful gardens, including an herb garden you can walk through.

If you're looking for a few other places where you can check out animals, we also recommend Crowder District Park in Apex (boardwalk with lots of turtles, including one huge snapping turtle), the Fearrington Village Center in Pittsboro (which has a number of cows, goats, chickens, and other animals you can observe), and the local garden supply business For Garden's Sake in Durham (which has a fenced in area with goats and chickens, as well as some playground equipment).

5. If you're missing the North Carolina Museum of Art, try checking out the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park.

Vollis Simpson was a North Carolina artist who made these large windmill-like sculptures, called whirligigs, out of scrap parts and metal. Even though this park is not particularly large, it's truly hard to describe in words how magical it is. Not to mention you can spend quite a bit of time admiring the details on each piece of art. Some of his Whirligigs can also be found at Jack Smith Park in Cary and at the Ann & Jim Goodnight Museum Park in Raleigh.

The Whirligig Park is about an hour away in Wilson, NC, so if you're looking for something closer, we also recommend the previously mentioned Ann & Jim Goodnight Museum Park, which is the outdoor extension of the North Carolina Museum of Art.

The Whirligig Park sits in historic downtown Wilson, and while not much is open there right now - due to a combination of COVID-19 shutdown and what looks like many long-vacant storefronts - it is still a fun area to poke around.

6. If you're missing a dip in the pool, trying checking out one of the many locations where you can access the Eno River at Eno River State Park.

Recently, Peter had a fantastic time splashing in the Eno River at a small beachy-type area off the Dunnagan Trail at Eno River State Park. We could also see people on the other side of the river doing the same by the old Pump Station. However, the Eno offers so much more than just an area to splash around - there are legitimate swimming holes, like Bobbitt Hole, along the river where you can feel like you're in a nature-made pool.

7. If you're missing an indoor place where you can let your kids go nuts and climb things, try checking out North Cary Park or Jack Smith Park in Cary, which both have stand alone rock-climbing areas.

Obviously, please just be careful, use caution, and make sure your kids are a proper age to be climbing these structures.

BONUS: This one is a little further out, but if you're missing going to the movies, try checking out Raleigh Road Outdoor Theatre (a drive-in movie theatre) in Henderson, NC. Peter's a bit young for this, but we're sure plenty of you with kids could use a trip to the movies this summer! You can check out what they have going on at their website here.

Think there's something we missed on this list? Let us know! Feel free to comment here, shoot us an email at, or send us a message via our Instagram page, peterdoesparks. You can also check out our Instagram page for information about many other parks we've visited in the Triangle and beyond!

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